Remembering the Triangle Factory Fire, 100 years later


Ethel Monick Feigen

Job: Give Out Trimmings

9th floor

Interviewed: September 29, 1958

I worked on the 9th floor and my job was to give out trimmings. My place was behind a table that I had in front of the windows. Right in back of me was a fire escape. I was working at my table and was getting ready to go home when I picked up my head and outside on the Greene St. side, I saw fire coming up through the window. I screamed "Fire" and almost as soon as I did that, the flames were all around on the inside. It happened so fast that a lot of people never had a chance. I saw some women at the machines become frozen stiff. They never moved. I ran to the freight elevator on the Greene St. side first but people were hollering that the cable broke.

When I first came to work I was a lace cutter on the 9th floor.

One day I was working and got lost in the shop near the Washington Place side. That was when I saw that there was a door there. In the fire, when I saw the freight elevator was down, then I thought of the Washington Place door. I ran to that door and tried to open it. All around me people were hollering, "I am dying, I am dying." I ran from the door into the dressing room looking for something to use on the door. In the dressing room there were men and women laughing. I did not know at the time that they were hysterical. I hollered, "Let's get a machine head and smash the door in." I remembered the top of the door was with wire glass.

The door was absolutely locked. I went to the window on the Washington Place side. I wanted to fall out. Then I got ashamed about the way I would look. They pushed me back to the elevator and they pushed me right in. When I got to the street I kept murmering to myself, "It's all a bad dream," and I started to scratch my face and tear my hair because something in me said that would wake me up. I remember a newspaper man took me under my arm. He was from the Journal. He asked me, "What is the matter," and I said, "There were 150 girls up there who will never get out." He took me to a subway. It was the first time I was in a subway because I always went home by the Third Ave. El. My father would give me a nickel to go to work, a nickel to come home and a nickel for lunch. The night of the fire I got home late. I got a licking from my father. He called me a "bummike" and my mother stood in the corner shivering. I kept hollering, "But Pa." but he would not listen and I had to go to sleep. I guess while I was sleeping, they found out the truth because when I got up they were all standing around me and kissing me.

I remember how one time during the trial, after I had been on the witness stand I passed Steuer in the street and he pinched my cheek and said to me with a smile, "So you want to do me out of my fee." I remember his tricks when I was on the stand. He handed me a map and asked me questions about where the doors and tables were in the shop. But he could not fool me because I told him to first turn the map around; you have it upside down.

My oldest son was born March 25, 1915. For years on March 25th I used to walk around scared and frightened not knowing what other terrible thing would happen on that day.